Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Together d. Wong Kar-Wai, 1997

Where Wong begins to meld the super-slow to the hyper-fast (or was that in Ashes of Time?), a move that reaches zenith with (the heartbreaking) In the Mood for Love. (Indeed, if you haven't seen ItMfL, stop reading this and go watch it. Now. Right now. Really. Yes, really.)

And that's the thing: the collision and inextricability of opposites. Agony and ecstasy commingle throughout, especially in the lovemaking scenes; the grandeur of the Iguazu waterfalls is apposed with a jaunty type of score; Brazil and Argentina, Fai (Tony Leung; quite possibly my favorite actor) surmises, are polar opposites. It's all put together to say a simple thing: opposites attract, but their attraction is destructive, a collision.

Which (to use a phrase I come back to again and again) isn't to say that the film is simple. This an extremely deft and complex account of a relationship - equally complex - crumbling, as if two magnets managed to, through their mad attraction, dive through each other, continuing with their velocity intact but already past the object of attraction, directionless in their singular, immutable direction. That's an unnecessarily epic simile, maybe, but it also seems to capture the grandiloquence of style that pervades Happy Together. Wong's style is so powerful, so apparent, that it seems too easy to dismiss his films as an exercise in form over substance; that is, the style inflects the substance of the film just as much as the "substance" itself. It's as if - to return to a favorite horse of mine - the style of the film dictates the (constantly elided) time and space of the characters.

The two lovers, btw, are gay; that Wong takes their sexuality for granted, while still dealing with the complexities of them being a homosexual couple in a heterosexual world, is an absolutely lovely thing.


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